Friday, November 16, 2018

A Piece of Work

I am proud to announce the release of my latest book: A Piece of Work. Here is the book blurb.                                                      By 1959 Lee Linville is a junkie living on the streets of New York. He has turned away from the life as an investigator for his lawyer friend, William Fullerton, and has embraced the counterculture way of life. Fullerton comes to Lee with a job only he could do. Fullerton wants Lee to find a sixteen-year-old runaway from an affluent family who has also turned to drugs and is lost in the concrete jungle of New York.Lee must fight against his addiction and his personal demons as his search takes him to the subways of Manhattan, the blues clubs of Harlem, the beatnik scene in Greenwich Village, and the rundown tenements of the Lower East Side.Along the way Lee encounters cops, drug dealers, pimps and a colorful assortment of fellow addicts. If this is a simple runaway case, why is someone trying to kill Lee before he can find the missing girl? As well as being a fast-paced detective story, A Piece of Work is a thought-provoking, sometimes moody look at life in 1950s America where the marginalize struggle with life on a daily basis.                                                                                                                                 Stephen Gaspar's books can be found on Amazon!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Shakespeare's Coriolanus and Spartacus

I just recieved my bluray version of Spartacus (1960) starring Kirk Douglas. I have watched this movie countless times on VHS, DVD and now bluray. Watching Laurence Olivier portray Marcus Licinius Crassus made me think of Shakepeare's Gaius Marcius Corriolanus. This summer I saw the Stratford Festival's fine production of Coriolanus. Both Crassus and Coriolanus are Roman Generals of the Patrician class who dislike and distrust the Roman people.

Coriolanus refers to the common people as curs and fragments, the foes to nobleness and dissentious rogues. His utter contempt for the people is clear.
Who deserves greatness
Deserves your hate; and your affections are
A sick man's appetite, who desires most that
Which would increase his evil. He that depends
Upon your favours swims with fins of lead
And hews down oaks with rushes. Hang ye! Trust Ye?
With every minute you do change a mind,
And call him noble that was now your hate,
Him vile that was your garland. What's the matter,
That in these several places of the city
You cry against the noble senate, who,
Under the gods, keep you in awe, which else
Would feed on one another? 

Like Coriolanus, Crassus does not believe the plebeians deserve the right to rule nor are they to be trusted. Speaking with Marcus Glabrus (John Dall), Crassus says.
Do you think I made you commander of the garrison to
control some rock patch on Vesuvius? It was to control
the streets of Rome!

One day I shall cleanse this Rome which my fathers bequeathed me.
He means to cleans it of undesirables. 

Crassus refers to the people of Rome as the mob. When talking to Julius Caesar (John Gavin) Crassus asks, Why have you left us for Gracchus and the mob?
To which Caesar replies, ... this much I have learned from Gracchus: Rome is the mob.

This line is similar to the line from Shakespeare that was used as a rallying cry against Coriolanus: The people are the city!

After extinguishing the slave rebellion Crassus demands of a duplicitous senator: Did you truly believe that 500 years of  Rome could so easily be delivered into the clutches of a mob?

But Coriolanus believes it can. He fears giving the people too much power.
... In soothing them we nourish 'gainst our Senate
The cockle of rebellion, insolence, sedition...

... When two authorities are up,
Neither supreme, how soon confusion
May enter 'twixt the gap of both and take
The one by th'other.

When speaking with his slave, Atoninus (Tony Curtis) Crassus explains the position of the common people as the two of them watch Roman soldiers march by.
There, boy, is Rome! The might, the majesty... the terror of Rome.
There's only one way to deal with Rome, Antoninus, you must serve her. You must abase yourself before her. You must grovel at her feet.

When Coriolanus is denied councilship and is banished from Rome by the people, he makes his position clear how he feels about them in a parting shot.
You common cry of curs, whose breath I hate
As reek o'th'rotten fens, whose love I prize
As the dead carcusses of unburried men
That do corrupt my air...

One other comparison of Shakespeare and the movie Spartacus is the scene of Spartacus walking through his camp the night before a major battle. It reminds me of a similar scene in Henry V.

Both Spartacus and Coriolanus are good stories about Rome, freedom and politics. Watch Spartacus and go to Stratford and see Coriolanus.

Stephen Gaspar's books can be found on Amazon

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Shakespeare - Two Roman Plays

My wife Susan and I just returned from our annual visit to the Stratford Festival where we viewed two of my favorite Roman plays by the Bard; Julius Caesar and Coriolanus.

The Stratford Festival's production of Coriolanus stars Andre Sills as the title character, an uncompromising, apolitical Roman general whose skill and determination on on the battlefield win him praise.  He, of course is hated by his own people when he directs that same harsh attitude toward them.

The production itself is untraditional as it uses a good degree of technology. It is visually compelling  and well worth seeing. Some of my favorite scenes have been cut, but the production and intermission runs almost three hours.

Lucy Peacock is excellent as Coriolanus's controlling mother Volumnia, perhaps Shakespeare's strongest female character.

A contemporary of Shakespeare's, Ben Johnson once said of the Bard, "He is for all time", comes to mind when one thinks of Coriolanus given the current political arena, particularly President Donald Trump and Premier Doug Ford, two untraditional leaders who have the ability to stir up controversy.

A few years ago I wrote a blog comparing Coriolanus with General George S. Patton. I am reprinting that blog here.

Watching the Royal Theater Live production of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus starring Tom Hiddleston reminded me of two things; the first was just how good a play this underrated tragedy truly is, and second, how much Caius Martius Coriolanus reminded me of General George S. Patton as portrayed by George C. Scott in the 1970 movie.

Both men are military men who are most comfortable at war. Both are unbending and apolitical

Both men held themselves and others to a higher standard, and both spoke their minds. When Patton believed one of his men a coward, not only did he tell the soldier so, but he slapped him for it. Both Coriolanus and Patton respected their adversaries, and both were accused of being overly proud.

I do not believe Coriolanus was overly proud. On a number of occasions he did not want to hear his accomplishments extolled.

"Pray now, no more...
I have done as you have done –
that’s what I can... for my country."

When his war wounds are mentioned:

"Scratches with briers,
Scars to move laughter only."

One of my favorite parts of Patton is the opening scene when Gen. Patton delivers a speech to inspire his men. This speech is based on the one Patton gave prior to D-Day. Patton uses coarse language, the kind of talk that the average dough boy could understand and appreciate.

When I heard Tom Hiddleston give Coriolanus’ brief battle speech in act I, scene VI, it reminded me of the Crispen Day speech Hiddleston did in Henry V. But the Coriolanus speech (like Patton’s) is not as grand as the Crispen Day speech, which centered around ‘band of brothers’. Coriolanus’ speech, on the other hand, emphasizes individualism, and every man finding courage in himself. He delivers the speech before his men covered in the blood of their enemies.

"If any such be here...
that love this painting
Wherein you see me smeared; if any fear
Lesser his person than an ill report;
If any think brave death outweighs bad life
And that his country’s dearer than himself:
Let him alone... follow Martius"

Both stories of these two men have a tragic ending. Neither die in a great battle as they would have preferred, but die rather unexpectedly. Both Patton and Coriolanus possessed shortcomings their world was not willing to accept. Both had too much nobility that their world could not tolerate. Patton and Coriolanus were great men, and their greatness was their undoing.

Stephen Gaspar's books are available on Amazon

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sherlock Holmes & History

I was in grade 7 when my teacher first introduced me to Sherlock Holmes, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I fell in love with Sherlock Holmes. It was not many years later that I fell in love with history (particularly Canadian history). So when I decided to write my first book, it would be a union of these two loves.

This is quite evident to anyone who has read The Canadian Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Most of the chapters of this book have a good smattering of Canadian history, geography and culture. One can learn a bit about this vast country from the Citadel in Halifax, to the politics in Ottawa, to the settling of the west, to the Fenian raids.

My second Sherlock Holmes mystery is entitled Cold-Hearted Murder, and I decided to keep Holmes in England, but a good part of the backstory takes place during the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon Territory.  

I did not plan on writing another Sherlock Holmes adventure, but when David Marcum asked me to contribute a story to an anthology that would benefit a worthy cause I acquiesced.

I decided to write a story based on the murders of the Canadian poisoner, Thomas Neill Cream who killed women in Canada, the United States and was finally arrested and brought to trial in England. I entitled the story The Lambeth Poisoner Case and can be found in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, Volume IX.

Image result for poisoner tom cream
Thomas Neill Cream

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Medieval Adventures of Thomas Aquinas

My new historical mystery/detective novel is entitled The Medieval Adventures of Thomas Aquinas.

The 13th century was a pivotal point in Western culture. Europe witnessed the rise of great universities and the resurgence of Aristotelian thought. It was the age of reason. 

No man exemplified this new age more than Saint Thomas Aquinas, who was a brilliant theologian, philosopher and privatos investigo. He was the man who perfected faith through reason. 

The Medieval Adventures of Thomas Aquinas is a fictional account of the crimes and mysteries St. Thomas encountered during his life. Though a work of fiction, extensive research was carried out to maintain historic accuracy and integrity of the life and times of St. Thomas.

The Medieval Adventures of Thomas Aquinas is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Click on this link to view all of Stephen Gaspar's books on Amazon. 

Please like and follow my page on facebook to see future posts, giveaways and updates on The Medieval Adventures of Thomas Aquinas

Please visit my website to view all my books.

Please explore this blog page get chapter-by-synopsis of my book, along with a 3-part blog comparing Thomas Aquinas and Sherlock Holmes, and more.

Stephen Gaspar is teacher and a writer of historical detective fiction. He lives with his wife Susan in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Some of his fictional detectives are a Roman Tribune, a Cistercian monk, and a Templar Knight. He has also written two Sherlock Holmes books.                                                                                                                                                                   

Monday, May 7, 2018

Thomas Aquinas and The Prime Mover

My new historical mystery/detective novel, The Medieval Adventures of Thomas Aquinas, has the 13th century theologian/philosopher solving crimes and mysteries.

In 1272 Thomas Aquinas travels to Naples to take the post as regent master. When one of his scribes is found murdered Thomas can not help but investigate the death. 

What follows is a rash of deaths that to most would appear as a tragedy of vendettas. Thomas, however sees something more... something nefarious.

While giving a lecture on Quinque viae--five ways or proofs that God's existence could be proved rationally using the human intellect, Thomas learns who is behind the recent murders in Naples.

Stephen Gaspar's books can be found on Amazon

Monday, April 30, 2018

Thomas Aquinas and The Death of Kings

My new historical mystery/detective novel, The Medieval Adventures of Thomas Aquinas, has the 13th century theologian/philosopher solving crimes and mysteries.

Back in Paris Thomas Aquinas is called to appear before King Louis IX. The king asks Thomas if, as a Christian king ,can he morally call for another Crusade which will result in thousands of deaths. Thomas informs the king of  the concept of jus ad bellum -- a just war.

The King of France also tells Thomas that he has been receiving letters of a threatening nature. The letters say that if the king goes on this intended Crusade the king will die.

Louis asks Thomas to look into this affair and try to discover who is sending the King these threatening letters.

Not very comfortable in social settings Thomas reluctantly agrees to attend a royal dinner at the palace so he can mingle amongst the King's barons and ministers and perhaps discover who is sending these messages to the king.

Thomas is astonished when he learns who has sent the King the letters.
Image result for king louis ix of france

Stephen Gaspar's books can be found on Amazon